Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2017 Finalist Entries

What Matters? Finalists 2017

2017 What Matters? NSW/ACT Year 9/10 Winner


Art Matters


Presbyterian Ladies' College, Armidale

The world in which we live is neither kind nor understanding. It does not explain its motives nor apologise for causing pain. People hurt and harm others, people hurt and harm themselves. But there is something that can deliver people from darkness and challenge those who need challenging. People are left crippled and hopeless by the harsh realities that run our world but out of their questioning come answers and hope. It is a distraction from the atrocities of daily life; sustains cultures, communities and individual lives; it is a sanctuary for many. There is freedom for all who crave it. What it is, is what we are, in the most pure and genuine mess. It comes from every crevice and crack of life in many different forms. It is the arts. It is what makes us human.

Art has meaning beyond that of anything else. It can be what one needs it to be. Sanctuary or motivation; pleasure or disgust; distraction or permanent change. To many people it comes as a saviour. Individuals that feel hopeless and dejected can find refuge, purpose, distraction or understanding that makes their life worthwhile. Art has power to turn lives around. In art, people of all backgrounds can join in harmony, civility and understanding when talking about something that could be seen as the minutiae of life. Something such as talking about the harmonies used in Bach’s cello suites or the colours that Jackson Pollock used in ‘Blue Poles’. This could be the only conversation that person has all day, week or month. It could save them from taking their own life or fading into the shadows. It gives people that society consider disabled a meaningful life. They can take part in entertaining, activating or freeing others. They can have independence and liberation from the constraints of society and physical condition. It gives power to everyday people by contesting inequality. It closes the divide between rich and poor, black and white, left and right, literate and illiterate. It can oppose war, conflict and discrimination. Whether art is a representation of real circumstances or imaginary, it has real power to change lives.

Unfortunately, artists are hampered in producing art by the noose that is money. In Australia, the funding of arts (and the freedom, growth and change that it brings) has been dramatically decreased. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Only 12% of artists can spend 100% of their working time involved in art due to the lack of income. The investment in arts education is also minimal despite much evidence that shows its positive impacts in other areas of education and life generally. The fact is that in countries that consistently rank among the highest for mathematics and science test scores, like Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands, music and art programs are mandatory in schools. New brain research shows that not only does music improve skills in maths and reading, it also promotes creativity, social development and self-worth. Yet, despite this, schools lack supplies and expertise in the different areas of art. Money could be funding positive change through the arts but instead it maintains war.

Art is the story of humanity. It reflects and shapes our sense of identity, attitudes and cultural values. Art is change and connection to the past. It is the buoy some individuals need to survive and the way to a positive future. Art is powerful. It may be how equality comes and discrimination is ended. Art is what makes us human. Art matters.

Jenna Beck